Handling Logistics for the Farnborough International Airshow – Q&A with Phil Powell, MD, CEVA Logistics
Being the official freight handler and logistics partner for any major event is a job that requires meticulous planning, a huge amount of manpower and the ability to react to new requirements quickly and efficiently.
When the event is one of the world’s largest airshows and the clients are multi-billion dollar aerospace companies, the bar is raised that little bit higher. CEVA Showfreight have had this responsibility for the Farnborough International airshow since 1994 and managing director Phil Powell gave Event Industry News an insight in to the work that they conduct.
How long have you been involved in the event?
Personally, I first worked for the event back in 1978. As far as CEVA is concerned, we have held the exclusive contract to provide logistics for the event since 1994. Since that first show, the contract has been put out to tender several times and each time we have retained our position.
Our work is split in to two distinct parts. Firstly, we manage the onsite traffic – during the build-up, the show week and the breakdown, including all car parking. The second part is performing as the official freight agent. We handle any items that need transporting to the event, either for the organisers themselves or for one of the many companies and organisations participating in the show. We’re heavily involved in the building of the temporary infrastructure that is required in order to stage the show, including the massive temporary structures that house the exhibition stands and
hospitality. We’ll be using forklifts to unload pallets off the back of a truck one minute then using cranes to position the new Virgin Galactic mock-up craft the next minute. It’s hugely varied but essentially, if it needs moving, we’re the ones responsible for moving it. The traffic management side of things originally started in 1994 with us purely handling the build-up and breakdown site traffic. This ran extremely smoothly and we were then asked to handle all of the show week traffic including car parks from 1996.
How far in advance of the show does your planning begin and when do you actually start to transport?
This year, our work on site started with cherry pickers around April, beginning to prep the site with some of the infrastructure. However, planning begins years in advance due to the nature of the show. When we were building for 2012 we were already making plans for how we will improve things for the next show in 2014. When it comes to traffic management, changes to roads both around and approaching the site lead us to constantly re-visit the plan. We’re fortunate that having worked on the event for so long we’ve developed a very detailed understanding of the site, which means we can constantly look at ways in which to develop the service we offer and keep up with the constant need of the organisers to develop and enhance the show itself.
Having worked on the show for so many years, how have you had to adapt your service in order to keep up with changing demands?
The biggest impact on us as a logistics provider has been the development of instant communication. Smart phones that allow customers to e-mail or speak to us on the move reflect the way expectations levels have risen. When all we had were landlines and letters, lead time expectations were very different! In a world where communication is now instant, customers expect quicker delivery times, speedier response times, say to unscheduled arrivals, and much faster responses to enquiries in general. We’ve had to adapt our IT systems to cope with this change, to the point where our IT department has actually won awards for the work they carry out. It’s vital that we have the best back-office system available so that we can manage our own transportation infrastructure clearly and efficiently. At any given point I can access our system to see exactly where any load is and how any unload operation is progressing. The increased levels of expectation from clients inevitably leads to an investment in vehicles, equipment and personnel to make sure we have everything required to undertake a job at our disposal. At Farnborough we will have close to 200 people onsite, dozens of forklifts and cranes, well over a hundred trailers, and a fleet of smaller vehicles ready to handle anything that may be thrown at us.
Does being responsible for highly sensitive and expensive equipment require you to adopt greater scrutiny of your staff?
We conduct a huge amount of internal training in addition to external development of staff. The regulatory controls when working on an event like Farnborough are intense, so it is not just prudent but absolutely necessary that our staff are trained and qualified to the right standards and beyond. Our team at the event is made up of both permanent and temporary employees. Some of the temporary roles allow us to source from the local area, which provides benefits both for the surrounding community and for us.
Category: Event / Festival Interviews & Reviews